Rogers, John

Interviewer: Jodi Stone
Place of Interview: his home
Date of Interview:
File No: 90 A & B Cycle:
Summary: Salisbury Bank & Trust, Interlaken Inn, Mr. & Mrs. John Percy

Interview Audio

Interview Transcript

MEMOIROfJOHN E. ROGERSTranscript of a taped interview.

Narrator: John E. Rogers.

Tape#: 90 A & B.

Date: March 20, 1992.

Place of interview: John Rogers’ home on Sharon Road, Lakeville..

Interviewer: Jodie Stone.

Mr. Rogers gives an account of both the Interlaken Inn and the Salisbury Bank and Trust Company. His family owned and managed the inn for thirty-two years. Starting as a clerk, sorting checks, he was employed by the bank until his retirement as president. In addition to outlining the development of both institutions, Mr. Rogers includes many anecdotes and incidents about them, making this interview both fascinating and unique.


Property of the Oral History ProjectSalisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library

Salisbury, Connecticut 06068


JS: This is Jodie Stone on the twentieth of March, 1992, interviewing Jack Rogers at his home on… What do we call this now, Sharon Road?

JR: Yes, it’s now called Sharon Road.

JS: OK. Tell me your name.

JR: My name is Jack Rogers. John E. officially

JS: When were you born?

JS: I was born October 27, 1929.

JS: Where?

JR: The garden spot in the Garden State of New Jersey. Camden which, I’m sorry to say has gone downhill quite a lot since I was born. From what I understand because I never spent much time there. We left there when I was young.

JS: To move here?

JR: No, we moved in the north of Jersey Actually, I’m not a native here.

JS: You’re not! Everybody thinks you are.

JR: No, I know it. My only claim to fame in that regard is that I married a native. Shirley was born… As a matter of fact, she was one of the “Born at Home” people in Salisbury. However, I also qualify the fact that I’m not a native by saying that I spent some part of every year of my life here, through my connection with the Inn.

JS: Which is what?

JR: Well, my grandparents owned it. I lived in New Jersey and I spent my summers here at the Inn. JS: Just visiting, just as a child.

JR: Well, as a child. I was with my parents and my mother worked at the Inn actually back in those days. So we spent the entire summer here. It was an annual event. In the spring we drove up to Lakeville. I was carsick every time.

JS: Were they the Rogers part of your family or your mother’s family?

JR: My mother’s family. They were my maternal grandparents, John and Elizabeth Percy.

JS: Percy.

JR: They owned the Inn. We lived in north Jersey. My father was in the insurance business. But as I say, every spring we got loaded in the car and we all came up to Lakeville and I spent the summer at the Inn, as an infant and as a young child, just enjoying myself. In later years, working, getting to know the hotel business and so forth.

JS: And did they… Who did they buy it from?

JR: Our family had had a strong tie to the Inn from 1924 until 1973. And my grandparents, John and Elizabeth Percy, John Percy was an engineer, worked for a knitting mill in Brooklyn, New York. They had this dream, as many people do, that running a little country inn is kind of a nice easy way to make a living. They found out the truth after they got into it. John Percy decided to retire from his career in New York, really, and come up into Connecticut and find a little country inn. So they found the Interlaken Inn, which was an inn and had been an inn since 1891. It was owned by a family by the name of Shaw. They had converted an old Dutch farmhouse to an inn and they built a number of cottages around it. Unfortunately, Mr. ‘Shaw died soon after they built all this. He probably died before 1900, but Mrs. Shaw carried on for quite a long tame. I would guess very successfully. I don’t really have I’ve never seen much in history about the operation of the inn under the Shaws. But anyhow, my grandparents…I think maybe it was kind of


going downhill because when they came up in 1924 and saw it, it was pretty rundown. It had been operating, but there was no electricity in the building, gas lights and there was like one bathroom per floor. Pretty primitive, but they were entranced with the spot. And so, they bought it. In 1924, in the early part of 1924, they came up that first season. They did some… My grandfather ’was sort of a construction type of person anyhow. I mean that was part of his business when he was in New York. So he dove right in and they, I think they had electrified the place and did a few more things to it to make it more… and generally got things spruced up. They had no experience in this business at all, of course. It was quite an adventure for them.

But they got it pretty well fixed up and were able to open up for that first season. They struggled through the first season, closed in the fall, and then spent that next year really doing a lot of renovations. I mean, they had a private bath in every room, did a lot of stuff like that Worked very, very hard. In April of 1925, they had just about completed^ They had planned to open up by Memorial Day and [I’m thinking of the Hotchkiss kids.], the workmen had piled Originally, the inn had a huge brick fireplace in the center of the lobby with an opening on each side. I don’t know if you can remember this at all or not. But the workmen, cleaning up the mess, they piled a lot of trash in that center fireplace and lit it up. Well, the inn had a wood shingle roof and these showers of sparks, of course, went up and set the roof on fire. Well, starting out on the roof like that, the fire burned slowly, down. Of course, there were no fire hydrants. They had to pump water from the lake. In those days the Lakeville Hose Company didn’t have the equipment it has now. So, they more or less just had to sit there and watch this thing burn. But in the meantime, they called up Hotchkiss School and they let the school out. This was a daytime fire. They let the school out and all the Hotchkiss students and the faculty trooped down the hill and they went into the building and took all the furniture out Of course, nobody would let somebody do anything like that today, but in those days it was just fine. So they had these streams of Hotchkiss boys going in and they took all the furnishings out while the roof was on fire. It was a three story building. The top two stories burned off and they finally got the thing under control. You can imagine that was kind of depressing for my grandparents. But with my grandfather’s connections in New York and with his engineering background… This was on April 27, and they got a fleet of sixty carpenters out of New York City. They rebuilt the entire place and they were open by July fourth with a completely, in those days, modernized inn.

So they put up with their baptism by fire and it’s sort of ironic that the inn eventually burned but that’s a little later in the story. They struggled with it for . When they originally opened it up, it was a year round operation and after, I think, two or three years they finally realized that being open in the wintertime was notI don’t think the ski business was what it is today. They really had virtually no business. So they finally decided this was going to be a seasonal thing, so they would open from Memorial Day until Labor Day and the rest of the year they spent in Florida.

It was not a bad life for them but when they were here they worked a year’s worth of work at the inn. And of course, that was through the thirties and things were not too good, so I think it was kind of a struggle. With the advent of the Second World War, that’s when the business really started to become successful. I think mostly because, of course, the Harlem Valley Railroad was still operating and people in New York, with gas rationing they


couldn’tWhen they could go on vacation, they could hop on a train in Grand Central and be picked up at the Millerton station and have their vacation at the Interlaken Inn.

I was thinking, in reviewing, thinking about the old inn and how different it was. That sort of business, that New England resort business, really doesn’t exist anymore. People are too mobile, they don’t In those days, people would come and stay for two or three weeks. This was their vacation. We even had, I remember a nice Italian lady who came every year and she came on Memorial Day and went home on Labor Day. She had a room and it was Mrs. Decal’s room. She always had that room. No one else ever got to use that room. That was her room. That’s an extreme case. But there were We had a lot of peopleAnd again it was really sort of like a family kind of thing. People would come back year after year, the same families. It was just like a sort of a great big extended family. It was a typical rambling New England inn. It had great porches on the front and the back with rocking chairs. Pleasures were simpler in those days.

I was trying to think of some of the quaint things that I can remember that happened during those years. The business about the trains coming to Millerton, for example. You probably don’t remember when Route 112, the Interlaken Road, was paved only down just past the inn. From there it was an old dirt road until it reached 44 over by Ore Hill. There were trees arching, it was sort of like a tunnel. I chuckle to myself because people would come up from New York and they would call ahead and my grandfather would meet them. He had a great big limousine kind of a vehicle, a huge thing. He would meet these people. I always wondered how new guests would react to this. Because here he came in this nice big limousine, the owner of the hotel and he was very genial. He was the ultimate host. He really loved that part of it. Then they’d be zipping back on this macadam road and all of a sudden they’d dive off 44 into this tunnel, this dirt road with all these frees. I’m sure they must have thought, “Where in the world are we going?” Of course, they’d ultimately emerge again to a paved road and there was the inn which was, as I say, in those days quite modem and up-to-date.

Because of the family aspect of the thing they had all kinds of quaint old things they did, like they’d have hat and bowtie parties where the quests would come to dinner in some sort of a costume, some kind of outlandish hat or tie. They’d award prizes. Grandfather Percy was a great bridge player, a chess player, pool, billiards, tennis, golf. He was a great athlete and good at all those things. So, of course, there were all kinds of tournaments of that kind

At the entrance of the dining room there was a Chinese gong, three different… I can remember as a kid very well because it was really a thrill when I was allowed to bong bong bong for dinner. But that’s what they did. When it was time for dinner somebody went and hit this Chinese gong to announce the guests and of course, by that time, most of them were assembled in the lobby and that was the opening of the dining room for dinner. They also, when people left, especially people that were old-timers and had been there for two or three weeks, half the guests in the inn would gather out on the front porch and send these people off. They’d be out there. They’d put all their luggage in the car and we had a bell, a hand bell. I can’t remember exactly, it was just an ordinary bell. But it was always brought out from the office and as these people drove off, they’d ring this bell and everybody would be on the porch, ‘Good bye, good bye, see you next summer.” It was quaint and it was nice.


It was a seasonal operation and consequently staffing it was always a problem because he didn’t have year round help. So every year – Who are we going to get to be a chef this year? We always got our waitresses and porters, bus boys and things as college kids. Here again it was really a very family oriented thing because, for example, the waitresses, they all lived in. There were special quarters over the kitchen for them and we always had like a house mother that was on the premises and was in charge of the waitresses and saw to it that they got in at night and there wasn’t a lot of hanky-panky. It was sort of like a girls’ boarding school I guess I would say. We had some very interesting people and incidentally we had quite a few marriages that ultimately occurred because of meeting through people. I’m a perfect example because Shirley, my wife, was a waitress. That’s where I met her.

JS: I was going to ask you that

JR: She was one of the local girls that got hired for the summer.

I should tell you something really about John and Elizabeth Percy because they were in my mind…Of course, they are my grandparents but they were also characters and really, I think, formed the character of the inn in the years they owned it. John Percy was as I say a retired engineer. He was a big man. He was probably six-two and a solid man; quite outgoing. As I say, his function as Ye Host was perfect for him. He loved it. As a matter of fact, I don’t think he really considered that part of the job, work because he was having so much fun. He was also, incidentally, in charge of the maintenance of the grounds and the buildings and all that sort of thing. But there was always a crew to do those things, but he was in charge of that. My grandmother, on the other hand, was a very refined, genteel Quaker lady. I always felt that she really did most of the work. She ‘was very, very conscientious and she didn’t sleep well, so she most often was up about five o’clock in the morning and she would be around the hotel. I can remember a number of times as a young man coming in from a night out and frying to get down the hall to my room where I stayed and seeing my grandmother on a stepladder in the hall, washing a window or something like that, and frying to be very careful not to let her know that I was just coming in and she was up for the day. But her Quakerism had a big impact on the inn. One particular way was that there was never a bar. She was very much a teetotaler and very much against drinking. My grandfather, on the other hand, was no such thing. He liked to have a drink and so one of the cute little on-going charades through all of my youth at the inn was Grandfather Of course, for guests, there was no bar, but they did serve set-ups in rooms and they had ice. So you brought your own bottle and the guests, most of them had cocktail parties in their rooms before dinner every night: they kind of swap around and it was again a kind of family type thing. On top of that, my grandfather always had his There really was a bar at the inn but it was always hidden somewhere, usually in the bowels of the inn somewhere because there was a laundry, there was a furnace room and there was a carpenter shop and Grandfather usually had a few bottles hidden somewhere. It was a great honor, as a guest, to be invited by John Percy to have a drink before dinner. This occasion would always be something like, “Oh, wouldn’t you like to come down and take a look at the carpenter shop before dinner?” Everybody knew what was going on and everyone pretended that


brouhaha, of course. After the dust settled. Grandfather would move his booze to some other location and continue to practice.

It’s funny. I don’t know if you’ve been to the Interlaken lately, but they’ve been celebrating the hundredth anniversary of Interlaken and Kevin Bousquet asked me if I had anything that might be useful to him. If you’ve seen a lot of the pictures that are up on the wall over there, I supplied them out of the family albums. One of them is a picture of Grandmother and Grandfather at their fiftieth wedding anniversary, sort of a semi-formal portrait and Kevin had that blown up and it’s hanging in the bar. I told him, I said, “Well, Kevin, I think that’s very nice. I have to tell you, however, that I’m sure my grandmother is rolling over in her grave because if she ever thought that she would be enlarged and looking over the bar at the Interlaken Inn I’m sure she would be terribly upset.” He offered to take it down but I said, “No, don’t bother.” But anyhow that was one of the little things that went on.

Grandfather, as I say, he was the host. He was always inviting guests for tennis, golf, of course. He played a lot of golf. I remember one summer when his hiding place for his liquor supply was in We had a large hot water tank in the basement to supply hot water for the entire inn. It was one of these things that was insulated and covered with canvas to keep the heat in and at the end of this canvas was a little flap cut so you could reach in and find out how much hot water there was by just feeling the tank. Well, that’s where my grandfather chose to keep his Well, that year he was drinking Dixie Belle gin and he kept his bottle of Dixie Belle gin. Well, you can imagine, it was the temperature of the hot water. He would take his friends and they would go on a hot August day and play eighteen holes of golf at Hotchkiss and come back, drenched. He he would invite them, “Wouldn’t you like to come down and have a little drink?” So they would go down in the boiler room and Grandfather would pull his Dixie Belle gin out of the hot water heater and that’s how he served it – straight. There was nothing. You didn’t get ice cubes, so you drank hot gin, straight out of the hot water heater. That was one of Grandfather’s little quirks.

Grandfather, wasAs I say, I don’t think he considered that he worked very hard. I suspect he did more work than I was aware of but he seemed most of the times to be enjoying his role as the host; while Grandmother flitted around in the background, made sure that things were running. Grandfather fired people because he was big and imposing. Grandmother usually hired them. Grandfather Percy – the relationship with the Town of Salisbury I think was generally a good one and smooth, but I do remember one instance where Grandfather didn’t improve his popularity in town too much. I can’t remember when this happened but at one point the State of Connecticut was seriously considering buying up Mt. Riga and making it into a state park. When that proposal came out a troop of Salisbury residents stormed the capital at the hearings about it to protest they didn’t want any such thing to happen. My grandfather went to that hearing and, of the residents of Salisbury he was the only one who spoke in favor of it. Grandfather was looking at the dollar signs. He was saying, ‘Oh boy, this is a state park on Mt. Riga. This has got to mean more business for the Interlaken.” I don’t think he endeared himself to the residents at that point.

Another thing Grandmother did was to furnish the inn. I don’t think they ever went out and bought new furniture. Grandmother went to auctions and she was very canny and smart. In those days you could get some really nice antiques at auctions for very little money. Grandfather always disapproved. For some reason really didn’t have much enthusiasm for


this whole thing because Grandmother would go off for a day, then she’d come back and search out John and say, ‘John, thee needs to take a truck down to ‘so and so’ because I’ve bought a few things’ He’d go down there and he’d have a truck load! And she’d furnish the inn with these antiques, not all antiques. Some of it was just ordinary furniture but basically she never had to buy new furniture.

Grandmother could be provoked on occasion. She was veryI’ll tell you one story and I’m sure no one would blame her for being provoked in the situation. It involves me and my brother. One of the things I learned at college was how to make a compound called ammonium iodide which is a very unstable substance and when you make it… I won’t give you the formula because I wouldn’t want this to get out but you end up with a wet pasty mixture and as long as it’s wet, there’s no problem. But as it dries out it becomes so unstable that it will explode at the slightest vibration, contact or whatever and it’s nothing. It will eventually explode when £ get dry enough even if it’s not touched. So my brother and I thought this would be a neat idea on Fourth of July. We said, “Why don’t we…’ We had played with the stuff enough to know the timing correctly. We went around to the dining room of the inn and sprinkled little bits of this ammonium iodide all over the dining room floor about a half an hour before the main Fourth of July dinner was to be served. It was perfect because it was just at the right stage of dryness by the time the meal was being served and of course the waitresses walking around would step on this stuff a bang would go off like a firecracker. It didn’t hurt anybody but it made an awful lot of noise. Well, needless to say, it was pandemonium in the dining room. Adding to the problem – this was shortly after the war – and there were shell-shocked World War II veterans at this dinner. Well, my brother and I realized as soon as all this happened, that this was probably not too good an idea. We vacated the premises and made ourselves scarce, but there was no denying that we were the ones that had done it. When my grandmother finally caught up with me, she grabbed me by the shoulders and, of course, I was bigger than she was, and she shook me and she said, ‘Jack, I could beat thee.’ That was about as violent as I ever saw her get. When provoked, Grandmother co u Id

Of course, these were the great… As I say my brother and I were there summers all of our young years and later we got to work and did various jobs starting with washing dishes with the great big old steam-powered dishwasher in the kitchen and one year I ran the laundry. I used to do all the hotel laundry fora few years. We worked on the grounds. We learned a lot doing that sort of thing. We eventually worked up to work in the office. That was quite an accomplishment. We were learning the hotel business. We both went on to Cornell to go to the Hotel School because it was assumed that we were going to stay in the family business. One summer I was in charge, when I was being elevated in level of responsibility, I was in charge of supplying the kitchen. I was procurement manager or whatever, buying foodstuffs etc., etc. In that year we had a wonderful French pastry chef, named Henry. After a month or two, I realized that I was buying vanilla in huge quantities and I mean huge quantities. You know, vanilla extract, even in a hotel, you don’t use huge quantities of it. I was buying, I think, every couple of weeks four gallons of vanilla extract. So I, being a loyal employee, I went to my grandfather and I said, ‘Something strange, I don’t quite understand this.’ I showed him the records. So he said, “Well, just keep your eyes open, something must be going on.’ I did that. I finally realized that Henry, the French pastry cook, every day had a water glass full of vanilla that was sitting on the


window sill in the pastry shop. He was drinking vanilla all day. So i went back and reported that to my grandfather and, of course, Grandfather being sympathetic to anyone that enjoyed a drink and acknowledging that Henry was probably the best pastry chef we had ever had, said that he’d buy the vanilla.

We had some interesting people. Of course, as I say, being a seasonal operation, we had to hire new people every year. You never knew. We had some traumas. You know chefs are very volatile people anyway. We’ve had chefs, bomb out and just leave in the middle of a Saturday night dinner. And I mean leave and there you are and Grandmother and Grandfather and all the family would be out in the kitchen cooking until they could secure somebody else and try to keep it from the guests that the chef had disappeared.

Another little vignette which really had nothing to do with the inn particularly except in those days we had our own trash dump. You wouldn’t get away with that these days. We had a trash dump down in back of the inn in the woods. I don’t know if you are aware of this but there used to be a path around the lake on this side and you could walk all the way from Hotchkiss into town along this little path. It went along these high rises along the lake. Beautiful, a beautiful walk. But when my brother and I wanted to go to the movies for a matinee we would go down to the trash dump and find two ginger ale or soda bottles. Even in those days there were five cents deposit and we’d have one in each hand and we’d ‘walk along that path into Lakeville, go down to the A&.P, cash ’em in, get a dime and go down to the Stuart Theater for a matinee.

JS: For a dime.

JR: For a dime. Those were the good old days. Anyhow, Will and I, my brother WillHis name was William D. but they called him Will Rogers for short, naturally. We’d cut our teeth in the hotel business in this family operation. He went – he was older than I – he went to Cornell first and then I followed and I went to Cornell and we both graduated from the Cornell Hotel School, Oddly enough, Will did stay in the hotel business, but he went elsewhere. Thinking back on it now, I don’t know exactly why, except at that time my mother, who wa.s the daughter of John and Elizabeth Percy, was effectively the manager of the inn. Maybe the thought was that he should get some experience elsewhere. He went to Sky Top in the Poconos fora number of years. He was the manager up there. I, on the other hand, after completing hotel school and then a stint in the navy, I wanted to stay in Lakeville. I loved it, having really, in effect, grown up here. I loved the area and I wanted to certainly stay here but I just had decided that the hotel business was not for me. I tell people, I’m not sure this is really true, but it makes a good story, that the reason I got into the bank was, one – there was an opening at the bank, at Salisbury bank and two – I had been led to believe that bankers worked from nine to three, five days a week. I knew from experience that hotel keepers worked like twelve, fourteen hour days seven days a week. That’s the reason I always give for abandoning the hotel business and going in the banking business. I’m not sure it’s true, but. anyway I sort of left the family business and got into the bank.

My brother eventually came back to Interlaken. That was after my grandparents had sold it and they sold it in 1956 to Tony Peters: they had owned it from 1924 to 1956. My mother went on to do other things. I was in the banking business. My brother stayed in the hotel business. Tony Peters who had been a guest for many years at the inn and loved it, that’s why he bought it, had his brother Bill running it for quite a few years. Then I guess Bill got tired of it or whatever, but Tony hired my brother to come back and run the inn. So it


was sort of like a homecoming kind of a thing. Unfortunately, it had a tragic ending but the family was sort of back into the Interlaken, in that kind of business. Tony…One of the first things they did was to put in a bar which was fine. Tony had a lot of money and he was able to invest quite a lot of money in it. It was sort of like repeated history however, because they did all this work in this one particular year and around in May, after having completed major renovations, the inn burned again. Only this time, it really burned. I mean it went to the ground.

At that time, my brother was there and was going to be the manager of it. That fire was mysterious. Matter of fact, I’ve just been reading the coverage again and I don’t think they ever really determined how it started. Of course, there was a lot of talk about there was arson. Mostly because they did determine where it started and the location of the start of the fire was underneath the front porch. There’s no wiring and there’s nothing there so they just really couldn’t understand how a fire would just start spontaneously there, t never heard whether they I don’t think they ever proved it was arson. But there was a deep suspicion there was arson and no one knew of a motive or whatever. So, of course, they went through major rebuilding which took a couple years and just before they were to open my brother took his life. That’s hard to talk about but that was a mystery too, because he left no notes and no one ever knew including his family and including me why he would do that. So that was really the end of our family’s connection with the inn. We were connected with it from 1924 to 1973.

JS: I want to ask you something about the building.

JR: Sure.

JS: It is part of the original building, I suspect. It has a turret. It is behind the swimming pool.

JR: OK. That building is called S Sunnyside and when the S haws really built the inn, they added the inn building, the main body of the inn building under this old Dutch farmhouse. The farmhouse they kept as the dining area for the hotel. At the same time they built four cottages. Cottages! They called them cottages, they’re huge buildings. They built Sunnyside and they built, where Stuart and Ann Hoskins lived, Rondeley, it was called. If you look at this building, it has this round turret. Eleanor Prendergast’s house and then right across the street from Eleanor Prendergast’s house, the house that has since been demolished and there some new house there now. George Kleeman lived there. And that was a similar house, built the same way, turrets. Basically the same design.

JS: They weren’t each for one family?

JR: Mo. They were… Well, from what I read about it, in fact, they were built as family cottages for these wealthy families that came up with servants for the summer. They’d lease the cottage for the whole summer, brought up their retinue. Of course, like Sunnyside, eventually my grandparents, when they got the inn, they converted Sunnyside into rooms. That was just a sort of annex to the inn and then there were rooms in Sunnyside and there still are. It’s still rented for accommodations..

JS: They owned then a lot more land. Little by little, they sold to the Hoskins and some others.

JR: Right, but not my grandparents. When my grandparents bought it, it was thirty-two acres, basically what the inn property is now. The Hoskins house was separated then. The Kleeman house was separated from the guests. So that all had been sold off prior to their owning the property. I know my grandfather also had all the papers on the conception of Sunnyside. It cost three thousand to build it, just another example of inflation.


JS: But they still ownWho put up all those houses?

JR: Tony Peters. You mean the ones down the back toward Long Pond, called Interlaken Estates or something. It’s strange, that was always a dream of my???. It was an idea of the Shaws originally. They started their building with four big cottages but they intended eventually to build more cottages and to sort of fill up the whole area with these cottages. Of course, he died and Mrs. Shaw never did that My grandfather being interested in construction and all that, he had numerous times drawn plans for I think I have somewhere some architect’s drawings of a winding road leading from Interlaken, from 112 down to Lake Wononscopomuc with little cottages sort of splashed around. In a way it’s a good thing that never happened. Where the little golf course is now. My grandmother was opposed to that and then I think most of the years they didn’t have the money to anything anyhow. They never got rich in this business but they had a good time, I think.

JS: Did Tony put up the condos?

JR: Yeah.

JS: Which people rented with the money held in escrow against purchasing?

JR: Yeah.

JS: It worked that way?

JR: I don’t know what’s happened to them. Those buildings are there but…

JR: They rent them.

JR: They do?

JS: Yes. Families come up, I know, for Hotchkiss graduation.

JR: So they are additional accommodations.

JS: They’re very nice, kitchen, washer, dryer, dishwasher.

JR: I’ve been in one ’cause some friends of mine were contemplating buying one at one time.

JS: Paul and Jean Blackburn were the first people who moved in.

JR: I remember when they were in there.

JS: They paid rent for many, many a moon.

JR: Oh, really.

JS: And then found that it didn’t matter what they said, they ’weren’t going to be able to buy it.

That’s wonderful that you can go back that far ’cause it certainly is a booming business now JR: Oh, yes. Well, in spite of the fact that it’s changed completely, I’m sure that my grandparents would be happy to know that the Interlaken Inn was still going because, as I say, that kind of New England resort, that whole business really died. This is a different kind of business now. But at least it’s still there. Now, you know I run into people all the time who say, Aw, now, this building, it doesn’t have the charm, anywhere near the charm. And it’s true. But on the other hand we’re living in modern times and it’s a successful operation.

JS: But it has no charm. It’s cold.

JR: Well, I suppose that depends on your view of what is charming. You talk to some younger person, they probably wouldn’t appreciate the charm of the old New England inn.

That’s in a capsule. I could talk for a couple more hours probably. But I won’t.

JS: I’ll turn over the other side to talk about the bank.


JR: There are a couple of things I’d like to say in the beginning. You asked me to be thinking about some of the interesting people I have had contact with because of the bank and I have had some. I said to myself, “I’ve got to be careful, because if I tell stories, they’ve got to be about people that are no longer with us.”

JS: Precisely.

JR: At least, if they’re identified, they’ve got to be people who are no longer here. And I have done that.

JS: Excuse me one minute. It’s the Salisbury Bank and Trust we are talking about, not just the bank” although that’s what we call it

JR: That’s true. I should have been certain to say that myself, but you’re quite correct. It is the Salisbury Bank and Trust Company, although that is only its current name. Its had a number of names in the past and I will give you some very brief because all this information has been published and is available in other places.. So I’m sure it’s not the kind of thing you want to have a repeat on.

The original bank was organized in 1848, and at that time was called the Salisbury Savings Society. It was strictly a savings bank; it started off very modestly and there’s a historical sketch that was published by the Society in 1907, going back to when it started in 1848. It tells some interesting stories about it. I can read that to you, but

JS: Do you think Ginny Moskowitz has got it?

JR: I imagine she does, but I would certainly show’ it to her and if she doesn’t, she can have it.

There’s another little brochure. In 1948 the Salisbury Bank and Trust Company celebrated one hundred years of Salisbury banking. One hundred years since 1848. Anyhow, the Salisbury Savings Society operated in various buildings. It started down on Farnum Road in the house that Ken Athoe used to live in. At least, that house used to be up on the green, which is now just a green. The bank building was built, I can’t remember exactly when, but sometime in the late eighteen hundreds, on top of the hill where the Wagner McNeill Insurance office is now. That’s the building I knew when I came to the bank. The Savings Society operated and moved into that building.

In 1874, the town, I guess, felt the need for a commercial bank which would make business loans and that sort of thing. The Savings Society basically took people’s savings and made mortgage loans for houses. It would never give a business loan or anything like that. That need was filled by Mr. Robbins and Mr. Burrell, who formed Robb ins-Burrell Company which was a private commercial bank and it operated out of the same building. As a matter of fact, they had two cash drawers, and there were two windows, side by side. One window was Robb ins-Burrell Company, the commercial bank, and the other window was the Salisbury Savings Society. They operated very congenially that way from 1874 until 1925 at which time they decided this was silly and they might better get married. So they did merge and becomeThat’s where the name Salisbury Savings and Trust Company started. It was in 1925. It was a result of the merger of those two banks. Interestingly enough, to me at4east, that was the first merger of a commercial and savings bank in the United States. The only reason I know that is because even when I was in the bank in the fifties, we occasionally would get a call or a letter from somebody wanting to get copies of our files of how we accomplished that merger, because it was the first time it


had ever been done. Apparently, it was fairly unusual for a commercial bank and a savings bank to merge. Commercial banks and savings banks – it’s hard to distinguish them nowadays – but to most of history commercial banks were one animal and savings banks were another. They weren’t friendly to one another. There were commercial bank associations and savings bank associations, but they never talked to one another. So that was sort of an unusual thing and the Salisbury Bank was the first in the United States to do that. That’s a brief history of the bank.

My history with it starts in 1954. I’ve already touched on why I got into the bank, but basically when I got out of the service, I wanted to stay here in Lakeville. Zack Candee at that time was the treasurer – no, he wasn’t the treasurer. He was working. He was just a teller in the bank. I knew Zack and we were friendly. He told me one day, he said, “You know we’re looking for a teller at the bank. If it’s anything you’d be interested in At that point I was really just adrift I was interviewing for jobs at various places around, none of them in Lakeville or Salisbury. So, I decided to have a shot at it. I did and I liked it and I stayed.

So it was sort of accidental me getting into the banking business. Certainly, my training in Cornell, though it was specialized to the hotel business, there were accounting courses. It was a business management course, so it wasn’t entirely lost in terms of what I was going to do for the rest of my life. So, I went in and I wasn’t even a teller at the beginning. I think l worked in the bookkeeping department for a few weeks, sorting checks. With a meteoric rise, I was a teller within a few weeks and enjoyed that.

I think at the time, as a matter of contrast, the bank at that time had total assets of five million dollars. Today, it’s about one hundred seventy-five million dollars. Of course, they’re inflated dollars, so the difference is not as great as it might first appear. But it was a very small institution. I think there were eight employees, where now there are about seventy- five. But it was a very congenial group. It’s tempting to look nostalgically back on those days as better days. I’m not sure that they were. Hany Bellini was the president. Harry had been with the bank forever. He was sort of a local boy. He wasn’t born in Lakeville. I think he was born in Winsted maybe. He graduated from Winsted High School and came right to work at the bank out of high school when he was seventeen years old and stayed. Then ultimately became president He was the president when I got there. The bank was very quaint. I remember, with some embarrassment one dayIt was quaint to the extent that when you walked in, there were mahogany woodwork and brass grills and all that stuff.

JS: It was charming.

JR: Right. I can remember once in later years while we were still there, some person from California walked into the bank and was just ecstatic, saying, “Oh, what a quaint, beautiful little bank!” In California there probably never was a bank like that, or at least, not in the fifties.

There are a lot of differences about banking in those days. An example: we paid on savings three percent up to five thousand dollars. Any money between five and ten thousand dollars, you got one and a half percent. Anything over ten thousand dollars, you got a half of one percent.. Now, I’ve never been able to figure out what the rationale was for that. Talk about discouraging deposits! I think there was a fear of having too much, having a concentration of money in a single person’s account. In other words, if someone got fifteen thousand dollars and decided to take it out, this would be like a trauma for the bank. And


going along with that, I remember getting instructed early on that if anybody came in and wanted to deposit more than a thousand dollars in a savings account, we were not to accept it, but send them to see Harry. Harry would then interview these people and find out what their intentions were.

JS: Oh, Jack!

JR: No kidding and they were serious about it. In other words, he would question them as to what they intended to do with this money. If they were just going to put it in there for a month, and then take it out and do something else, he wasn’t going to take it. I don’t know whether he elicited a promise or a pledge or whatever from these people that they were going to leave it there for a minimum amount of time. But that was the rule. Anybody who wanted to deposit more than a thousand dollars had to go see Harry and he would decide whether or not to accept it.. –

Also, on the other side of the coin, on mortgage loans, we would not entertain an application for a mortgage if it was in excess of five thousand dollars. That was the biggest mortgage he would make. Well, of course, in ’54, my first house I paid twelve thousand dollars for. I might have been able to get a mortgage at the bank, I don’t know. I ended up getting a Gl mortgage.

But that was just to give you an idea of how things have changed in that regard. Also, it hits me every once in a while, even since I’ve been out of the bank actively, the mortgage application process is ever so much more complicated. The mortgage application forms – a packet of eight and a half by fourteen pieces of paper and probably ten deep, with various disclosure statements, commitment forms, title searches, etc. When I went to the bank, our mortgage application form was one piece of paper and it wasn’t a full eight and a half by eleven sheet. It was about eight and a half by eight and it had about ten lines on it. You could fill one of those out in about five minutes. In addition to that, if you were on good terms with your attorney, you could come in in the morning and fill out your application and you could have your money that afternoon. Now, try to do that today, Jodie. Even when I left the bank, you could get a mortgage in a few days. But now it’s at least two or three weeks before you can get a mortgage.

JS: If you can get one.

JR: That’s right. Things have changed a lot. We, in those days, made [and we still talk about this in the banking business] “character loans”. In other words, a loan really has nothing to do with the financial condition of the borrower, but is based on their character and your knowledge that they are people who are going to pay back or die. I mean, you know they are going to pay. For a great many years almost all of our loans were “character loans”. The bank was smaller. We knew the people. They were not people from outside the community. Most of them were people who were in the community, had been there for years, had been doing business with the bank for years. They were used to being able to walk in to the bank and say, “I need a couple of thousand dollars.” We’d say “Here, sign here. I’ll fill it out and put the money in your account.” I mean, it was that quick. They would come in, sign their name and leave, and leave you to do the paperwork and put the money in their account. For most of the years when I was in the bank, I kept at home blank note forms of all kinds, because I had had calls on a Sunday from a working person who couldn’t get there. He’d say, “Look, I need some money.” He’d come to the house, sign the note in blank and say, “Put the money in my account on Monday.” You can’t do business


that way anymore, unfortunately, but in a lot of ways that kind of relationship with your customers is what built the bank. I can only hope that enough of that stays with the bank so that it will continue to be successful, because many times we’ve seen it in the past worry’ about competition coming into the area, where like the Chase Bank takes over the old Millerton National Bank.

It used to be a bank just like the Salisbury Bank, and some of the old farmers in the Millerton area for years had been going into the Millerton National Bank in the springtime when they needed their crop loan, or whatever. They’d walk in. Zack used to work there. They’d say, ‘Zack, I need five thousand dollars.” “OK. Just sign this note.” And they got the money. Well, when Chase Manhattan Bank went in there, no way! You couldn’t do that anymore. They had forms to fill out: they wanted to see financial statements, etc. You can imagine how that rankled with those people who had been doing business. Consequently, a Jot of that business came over to us. We got a lot of business as a result of that so, we did not feel threatened by these large banks coming in. To the contrary, they made our business bigger.

JS: Don’t you think that the two banks, National Iron. I thought, “Oh boy, that’s competition like Litchfield coming in… It doesn’t seem to bother the Salisbury Bank at all.

JR: It’s funny that you should mention that, because when that first started happening, we did get panicky. But I can remember when Litchfield, Litchfield was the first one that wanted to come in here. Hany Bellini was almost in a panic. ‘They’re going to take half our business!” So we protested and we fought that to no avail. It happened, and nothing happened.

Then when the National Iron Bank, with the main office came to our town, we discussed this we said, “Hey why spend a lot of money?” The atmosphere, the regulatory atmosphere at that time was, “Let them branch, let them branch.” So we said, “No, our experience has been that it doesn’t affect us.” And it never has. I don’t know where the money comes from but when another bank comes into the town, more money comes out of the woodwork some place.

JS: It’s interesting that the poor Millerton Bank has had – what? three robberies now, two? You know, right across from Trotta’s [JS refers to a branch of the Rhinebeck Bank, the Millerton Bank referred to earlier is located elsewhere in the village. Ed.] And you’ve only had those poor sappy kids in their Halloween outfits.

JR: Well, we’ve had two robberies. One, completely unsuccessful. We had the money back in twenty-four hours and they were caught within hours. That was the Salisbury branch robbery. The one in Lakeville, where they shot through the ceiling.. The insurance company paid us on that but I don’t think they ever recovered that money. They THINK they caught the guy up in New Hampshire after his connection with some other bank robberies up there. But the reason they think he’s the one who robbed us is because they found in this little cabin he was hiding in, bill straps and things with our name on them. So, they’re just assuming he was the guy who had taken us.

Before we get away from the past, I want to tell you a couple of things just to give a flavor of how things operated in those days.

Soon after I got to the bank in ’54. I think it was in ’55 or ’56, the bank was growing and needed space for bookkeeping. So they decided to put an addition on the back of the old building up on the top of the hill there. At that time Bill Raynsford was on the bank’s board.


so naturally, he got the contract to do that. I suppose today that would bring about some conflict of interest problem. He was not only the contractor, but he was the architect. Some day if you’re ever in there, you ought to go in that back room and ask Walter Shannon about that. It’s a fairly large room, but all the windows are these little awning-type windows and they’re right up next to the ceiling. That was Bill Raynsford’s design and he was very clear in why he did that. He said, “If you put windows down where they can see out of them, they’ll just spend their time looking out the windows’ So, those girls in the bookkeeping room all they could do was look out and see the sky. They couldn’t see anything else, because Bill Raynsford thought that might keep them from doing their work.

My sister-in-law, Edith Blodgett, Shirley’s sister, worked in the bank in the days before Harry Bellini, when a man named Hoadley, Henry Hoadley, was the president, who preceded Harry. Hany’s office and before that Henry Hoadley’s office, was off to the easterly corner of the building, somewhat removed from the general banking area. Edith has often told me that if there was any laughter, if anyone laughed, Mr. Hoadley was out in the bank to find out what was going on. So things were pretty severe in those days.

We had the old Boston ledger. I don’t know if you know what that is, but when I arrived at the bank in ’54, the bank’s main accounts were on what they called a Boston ledger. We had this great counter and this ledger was probably three feet by two feet, each page. It had columns, columns and columns and all the various accounts, not individual people’s accounts, but all the general ledger accounts of the bank of which there might have been twenty or thirty – savings deposits, expenses, interests, various things. But, anyhow, that’s how the bank balanced itself every day, using this Boston ledger. It was a manual operation. I mean, by hand, you inked… penciled the figures in and they got inked in later after we were proved up. Earl Vosburgh was the treasurer of the bank when I went there and he was probably at that time a man in his sixties. He had been in banking all his life and he was a scrupulously accurate, neat man, somewhat severe, although he had a sense of humor. But it came down to business, he was business. So, we go through the day and Earl Vosburgh, being Treasurer, was in charge of the Boston ledger and all of us minions would come to him with figures, etc. He’d enter them in the ledger. The moment of truth would come at the end of the day, when you were to prove, of course. And Earl Vosburgh, who didn’t believe in adding machines, didn’t trust them, would add these columns of perhaps thirty or forty figures. He would take his pencil, start at the top and go zipping right down to the bottom, zip! He could add those figures faster than you could possibly do on an adding machine and he never made a mistake. As a matter of fact, when Earl got finished his additions and cross footings and all that stuff, and it was out of balance, he’d put on his hat and go home and he’d say, “You’ve got a mistake there somewhere.” He was that confident. Unfortunately, and much to the irritation of all of us, he was always right. We never found him in a mistake.

As the years went by, and I can’t remember when we finally got rid of that Boston ledger, but I’m sure we must have had it for at least six or eight years after 1954, up into the sixties. I can remember with some sense of shame and embarrassment… I used to go to bank conventions or bank association meetings and during the break sometimes people would either be having a meal or standing around the bar and I’d be standing there and I’d hear this conversation going on. A couple of old duffers would stand and say, “Do you remember when we had the old Boston ledger?” And I would be standing there, shrinking.


and say, “We’re still using that Boston ledger.” They were talking like it was ancient history. So, now, I want to tell you about some interesting people that I met in the course of banking.

One nice thing… I’ve always said to people, 7m not really a, I truly believe this, I’m not a career banker.” Because to me, the business of banking, just the business of pushing numbers around, I would consider dull business. In a way, it’s an easy business because, contrary to a retailer who has to sell things and has to have traffic in and out of his store to survive, the bank operates on the spread, the interest spread. You know, they take in deposits, pay money for them, loan them out and get paid money. There’s a spread there. They charge more interest than they pay, so… In the old days, I can remember a February morning… In the old bank up on the hill, we would go from nine o’clock until noontime and then we might have five or six people come into the bank the whole morning long. That’s hard to imagine now, but that’s what happened. I can remember people saying, “Boy, you people are in trouble, this is bad.” I would always say to them, “Hey, in a way, it makes no difference if anybody comes in here because the spread is still there. It’s cranking interest. Even if we don’t do anything today, we’ve earned something.” So, in that respect, banking is an easy business, although, I will say today, obviously, it’s not easy anymore, as evidenced by the failure of a lot of banks. Easy, but also, I wouldn’t say dull. The thing that saved the banking business for me was operating in a small town because you do a lot of things that have nothing to do with banking. You meet people, you hear their problems and they may not necessarily be financial problems, which makes it very, very interesting. It’s not a dull business, by any means, or it certainly hasn’t been for me.

Of course, the old building now is the Wagner McNeill office, but when we were up there in that old building, the N. A. McNeill Company, the predecessor, was up overhead. Charlie Fitz was running that office. Ken Athoe was in there and Ethel Thrall was the secretary. Do you remember Ethel? Well, this story has to do with Ethel.

I was always generally the first person… I’m an early riser anyhow and I found I could get my best work done before the bank opened. So I would often be at the bank no later than eight o’clock, sometimes before that. Ethel Thrall was the early bird in the N. A. McNeill office. She came in and opened things up, etc. We had a problem with bats in that building. It’s an old, old building and had lots of holes in it. The attic was full of bats. As a matter of fact, we had a huge pile of bat guano that I kept frack of because I threatened to bag it up in baggies and sell it for fertilizer, but I never did do that. That was one of my lost opportunities, I guess. But, anyway, one morning I was in the bank and Ethel came in the side door. I could hear her going up the stairs. Then, there was this God-awful shriek! I ran upstairs. I didn’t know what had happened, but EthelThe key to the office door was apparently kept in the attic stairwell, hanging on a little hook. You know what’s coming, don’t you, Jodie? Ethel, this morning, never looked, she just opened up the door and reached around and grabbed the key. Well, of course, this time there happened to be a bat hanging off the hook. That was an experience that Ethel didn’t get over for quite a long time. I think she moved the place where she kept the key and never ventured into that attic stairwell again.

We’ve had a lot in the news lately about the House and the House bank and the gentlemen drawing checks with the knowledge that there were no funds to cover until their pay checks came in, or whatever. I’ve got to say that in the early days that I was in the bank, I was quite impressed with how loose and sloppy things were in that regard. One particular guy comes


to mind. I’m sure he must be dead and his name wouldn’t mean anything anyhow. But this guy…He didn’t live in Lakeville. I think he lived possibly in Amenia or Sharon and I really can’t recall even what his business was. But I do remember, as a teller, I was told that this was going to happen. Every day at two-thirty this gentleman came in the bank to see what checks he had in against his account that day and he very rarely had enough money to cover them. We’d give him the number and he would disappear and at five minutes of three he was back with cash to cover those checks. This went on for years and, in retrospect, we were foolish to even allow it to happen. But it was one of those things. What he was doing, of course, we assumed – if anyone had taken the trouble to figure it out, he would have figured it out pretty easily – he was simply going He had accounts in a lot of banks around here. Whether the guy was ever able to do any businessWhatever his business was I never knew, because he certainly had to spend part of every afternoon ripping around. For instance, if he came into our bank and needed one hundred dollars to cover his checks, he would zip down to the Sharon bank, where he also had an account and cash a check on us and bring the hundred dollars out to cover our check. In those days it took checks sometimes four to five days, a week to clear, so he had a lot of balls in the air all the time, and except for the scale it makes those guys in Congress look like pikers…That activity is old as the hills. I suspect it has been going on ever since banks existed.

We also had – I can mention this guy’s name – old Jim Meehan, a farmer, who has since departed. But Jim used to be a good customer of the bank but the girls in the teller line just couldn’t stand him, because Jim would never… He came to the bank in his barn clothes. He never changed his clothes. I won’t say he never changed his clothes, but he never changed his clothes to come to the bank during banking hours. He came right out of the barn. In the wintertime, particularly, he had a habit I think as he was getting older perhaps the effort of getting into the bank was tiring to him. So he would come in and sit on one of the radiators for a few minutes before he did his business.

JS; Oh!

JR: The smell of ripe silage would FILL the bank, and that was pretty hard to take.

J S: Was he Mary Meehan Finney’s brother?

JR: Yes. He was a farmer all his life, and a character, a nice guy, but he sure didn’t smell good.

As I say, I started sorting checks and then I got to be a teller, and eventually I got to be a loan officer. That was a pretty awesome experience because of course then you really have some responsibility and you’re lending other people’s money out and you have to hope that you’re going to get it back. I had a desk by the side window, the side street that runs from 41 [ He probably means 44. Ed] down to Allen Street. I came in one morning to find a coke bottle in my chair. Of course, the windows were those great big paned windows and someone had gone by in the night and heaved a coke bottle through a window in my chair. I spent the next few minutes trying to figure out who I had turned down for a loan anytime within the last week. I never came to any conclusions.

Do you remember somebody here, a gal named Lavender Lovell?

JS: Oh

JR: Who doesn’t? Most people who have been here any time at all knew Lavender. I met LavenderOne thing about the bank, you do meet people about as soon as they come into town. I had the pleasure of opening Lavender Lovell’s account for her.


Lavender, for those who did know her, was a cherubic woman with…To be charitable, I shouldn’t say this, I suppose. I don’t think her hair was natural. It was very blonde. A very outspoken person. I doubt that her real name was Lavender, but she had adopted that name and the color, as you know. It was certainly her favorite color, and in talking with her to open the account, of course, one of the first things I do was to order her a checkbook and you know, what color? At that point, I noticed that she had lavender nail polish on and her clothing was lavender or at least, it was highlighted with lavender and her pen wrote with lavender ink. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when she said, “I want a lavender checkbook.” Well, we dealt with a number of companies that printed checks in those days. I got all the catalogs out and we searched and searched through all the catalogs and there was not a single company that made a lavender check. I can’t remember now what she finally settled for, but it was probably something as close to lavender as we could get. I’m sure it didn’t satisfy her…

Nothing to do with banking, but she raised English bulldogs, ugly dogs, but apparently quite favored in breeding circles, or what have you. She traveled to dog shows all over the country and was quite successful. The house she bought up on Undermountain Road, she built a huge addition on. She had dog runs built there that were air-conditioned. She loved her dogs. Of course, all of her bed sheets that were hanging, all of her laundry that were hung out on the line was always lavender. The house itself had lavender shutters, it goes on and on. She needed a station wagon to travel to these shows with her dogs, etc. She went to Morgan Motors to order a new Ford station wagon. Morgan, I guess, talked about what features she wanted, etc., etc. So when he got to the end of it, he said, ‘‘Well, what color?” I’m sure at that point he probably knew what to expect. Lavender had a sweater over her arm and she threw it on his desk and said, “This is the color I want the car.” I didn’t know this, but apparently you can get any color car you want if you’re willing to pay for it. That’s what Morgan said to her. He said, “You can have this color if you like. It’ll cost you four hundred dollars extra.” Today, it would probably cost you two thousand dollars extra. She said, “I don’t care. That’s the color I want.” And that’s the color she got. She got this lavender station wagon to travel to various shows.

To give you an idea of what kind of character Lavender was… She had a lot of trouble with that car. It had an automatic transmission, and she hadn’t had it very long before the transmission went out or didn’t act correctly. She took it to Morgan and he did warranty work on it and it kept going out. Anyhow, to make a long story short, she just had all sorts of trouble with it to the point where she was exasperated. Morgan was not able to get much cooperation from the Ford Motor Company on this thing. He thought she ought to have a new transmission or a new car or something… But the Ford Motor Company was resisting. So Lavender went out and got some extruded plastic signs and had them mounted on the car – FORD IS A LEMON, just very negative advertising, and in deference to Morgan, who she really liked, she had a little sign on the back of the car that said, MORGAN MOTORS OKAY. She drove around the country in this car. Well, that would be bad enough but she wasn’t satisfied. She wanted to get some action. She happened to be going to Detroit for a dog show. So she called a newspaper in Detroit before going, and explained the situation and said that she was going to the Ford Motor Company with this car. Of course, the newspapers thought this was great, so they were there with their photographers. As Lavender drove up in front of their main plant in this car, plastered with these not-very-


complimentary signs… She told me a lot of this story herself after she got back. Some unctuous vice-president came out, very gracious and listened to her story and said, “Well, now, Mrs. Lovell, we’re very, very sorry. I’m sure this has all been a great misunderstanding. Why don’t you leave your car here with us today? We’re going to take you into the city and wine and dine you. They’ll put a brand new transmission in your car while you’re here, no charge.” Fine. So Lavender went and had a nice luncheon, was wined and dined by the Ford Motor Company executives, came back in the afternoon. They rolled her car out, a brand new transmission in it: she thanked him very much. This man said, “Well, I’ll assume that now you willThey hadn’t taken the signs off the car. They said, “I assume you’re going to take the signs off the car” She said, “Well, I will when the Ford Motor Company reimburses me for the seven hundred and some odd dollars that I’ve paid to rent a car while this car was out of commission with the transmission.” I guess the Ford Motor Company had gone as far as they were going to go. They said, “No-; we’re sorry but we can’t do that.” I guess it wasn’t their policy at the time. So she said, “Well, then the signs stay on.” And she drove off. So that was Lavender.

JS: That’s a good story.

JR: She was a character.

JS: She was, indeed.

JR: She was really a good-hearted person, a very good-hearted person, but she was eccentric.

One of my favorite other experiences as a bank employee occurred I can’t remember the year this happened, butWe have a Trust Department, always had a Trust Department. Annie Wisoki… I don’t know if you remember Annie Wisoki: well she was an aunt of Dick McCue. She and her husband Joe lived in You know where the Sunflower is now. {It was in the old building on the northwest corner of Porter and Main Streets, Lakeville. Ed.] It used to be the Village Restaurant, or whatever.

JS: The Blue Room.

JR: The Blue Room. The next house beyond that, a small little house in there and that was owned by Annie Wisoki. As a matter of fact, Annie was, in a way, sort of a slum lord in Lakeville. She owned about four or five houses in the whole area back there where now Peter Gott is and they were generally pretty tumbled-down places but she rented them to people who didn’t pay much rent. The people in town really thought she was probably rich, that she just chose to live as a derelict. She looked like a derelict. She walked around in rags and Joe was in rags and they certainly seemed to be very, very poor. They never had a car. I can remember when Annie used to go shopping. She used to shop in Millerton and Joe had a wheelbarrow and this was a sight you’d often see. The two of them, they would to Millerton to do their grocery shopping, and the groceries would go in the wheelbarrow and then they’d walk back home. Annie was a rotund woman. Joe looked like Ichabod Crane. He was just as skinny as a rail. It used to be quite a sight because Annie would stride right along and Joe would have to sort of run and stumble to keep up with her. He never could. When you passed them on 44 going into Millerton, first you’d come upon Joe loping along with this wheelbarrow and a hundred yards ahead would be Annie. That has really nothing to do with this story, but is just to give you a picture of what Annie was like.

They lived in this house two doors from the Lakeville Post Office, mind you. Joe died first and I don’t know the circumstances surrounding that, except that he froze to death. I have to think that either he was not in the house at the time. I never heard much about that story.


Then Annie subsequently died. They had no heat in the house, apparently, because in the wintertime Annie wouldYou’d see her quite a lot in the post office or the bank. She was quite a serious churchgoer, the Catholic Church and she’d go up and stay in the church to stay warm. Suddenly, Annie was not appearing and for about a week nobody saw Annie. Well, then they finally decided they’d better go in the house and Annie was dead, she had frozen to death in the house. There was no heat, there was no electricity, there was no operative plumbing. Do you remember the story of the Collier brothers in New York?

JS: Yes.

JR: Well, this was the Collier brothers, only on a lesser economic scale. But it was the same thing. No trash had been taken out of the house for years. You walked in aisles through the rooms and the trash was up waist or shoulder high all around you, filling the rooms. There were just little passageways.“

Well, how I got involved how the bank got involved was there was no will that anybody could find. So the Probate Court appointed the Salisbury Bank as administrator of her estate. Again, there was this general feeling that in spite of all this, there was money. And, as a matter of fact, there was money. We knew Annie had savings accounts with the bank of substantial amounts. She really didn’t need to live the way she lived. We knew that, at least the bank people knew that. So as administrators, it was our responsibility to go in and look for assets, etc. Being a junior officer of the bank, I got appointed to do that job. It took three or four days to go through the house. We hired Ernie Games. He got some men. He backed his truck up to the front porch of the house. The first day we went in…There was a distant relative from Waterbury who came up and I’m sure he thought there was going to be all kinds of things. So he wanted to be there to make sure the bank was going to be honest about this etc. and to get a first glimpse of this fortune that we were going to find in this house.

So we opened the front door, got on the oldest clothes we had. We got on our hands and knees and started going through. We started standing up, but we eventually got on our knees as these piles got down to the floor. We’d just look at things to see if there was anything of value, push it behind us. Ernie’s men were behind us with shovels, they’d shovel into barrels, take the barrels out and dump them into this truck and then he’d take loads to the dump. Well, it took three days to get through the house doing this. Every night when I went home, Shirley would meet me at the back door. I’d take off my clothes, hand them in through the door and she’d drop them into the washing machine. Suffice to say, we never found any money. There were people who thought we should tear the walls down and that there must be money and stuff. We didn’tOh, I take that back. We found coins on the floor, in amongst the trash, Indian head pennies. I mean old coins that had obviously been there since the days when those things were circulating freely. We ended up with a three gallon bucket of pennies and a few nickels. I think in a moldy old wallet in a jacket hanging in a closet upstairs, we found twenty dollars’ worth of five dollar bills and they were the old big bills.

All this was two doors from the post office in Lakeville, mind you. Fortunately, it was February and it was cold. I can’t imagine what it would have been like in the summertime. Annie loved cats and when the cats died she put them in cardboard boxes and put them down cellar. We found like six or eight cardboard boxes with cats, starting from skeletal remains


to just rotting remains of cats.

We finally got through the house, but it was an experience I’ll never forget. But this was all in the line of duty for a junior bank officer. We eventually settled her estate. We eventually sold the houses. Victor Clark bought them all, I think for twenty-four thousand dollars or something like that. I thought he paid a pretty good price for them, actually, because they all had to be rebuilt Annie’s house that was so horrible has been refurbished and is a nice little apartment house now. I think Victor Clark still owns it.

JS: Oh, Jack that’s marvelous. We’re corning to the end of the tape, Shall I put another one in?

JR: No, I think that’s about all I have to say, unless you have some questions.

JS: Thank you very much.

JR: You’re welcome.